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"From My Perspective" Reading & Reception

When Oct 29, 2009
from 06:30 PM to 07:30 PM
Where Decorah Public Library
Contact Name
Contact Phone 563-382-3717
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From My Perspective

Reading & reception for From My Perspective: Essays about Disability

On Thursday, October 29, The Spectrum Network will hold a reception and book signing for From My Perspective: Essays about Disability, in the Decorah Public Library mezzanine at 6:30 pm. Authors will read selections from their essays, and Rachel Faldet, co-editor, will talk about the process of gathering stories for the book. Faldet is assistant professor of English at Luther College. 

From My Perspective was published in August by The Spectrum Network. Edited by Faldet and Kris Schanilec, the collection includes writings by a variety of individuals who have disabilities and those who support them, including parents and human services professionals. Many of the essays were generated in a writing workshop held by Spectrum in April this year.

The event celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month, as well as Spectrum’s thirty-fifth anniversary. It is free and open to the public. For more information or to purchase a copy of the book, call 563-382-8401 or visit


Toni Smith, Executive Director

The Spectrum Network

(563) 382-8401

About the Book

From My Perspective: Essays about Disability was published by The Spectrum Network, a Decorah nonprofit that serves people with disabilities and other obstacles. The organization helps people gain independence in their work and daily lives, through services like job training, supported employment, and life-skill building.

In April, Luther College professor Rachel Faldet held a writing workshop with clients, staff members and others connected with Spectrum. Faldet has helped several groups gather stories into collections, including Our Stories of Miscarriage: Healing with Words (Fairview Press 1997). “Stories are a way of thinking about who we are as a community. It’s important to hear people’s voices, even if they do not have experience writing,” she says.

Faldet observes that it is unusual for a writing group to include authors who are not physically able to put words on paper. “I was impressed by how people in this class took to the task of telling their stories with great earnestness and dedication, even if they had to speak aloud to someone who would put their words down on a page.”

Overcoming obstacles, large and small, is a common theme throughout the work. One writer describes her struggle to get married in the face of opposition from her support team. “It felt like they were holding the cards of my life and I wanted to play…They would talk about you like you weren’t even in the room.” Another writer recounts living independently for the first time when he reached middle-age: “That first day, when it was just me alone in the apartment, it was silent. I felt scared and excited at the same time… I could do what I wanted and when I wanted. If I didn’t want to do my dishes that night, I didn’t have to. What a great feeling.”

Several stories come from parents. In one essay, a mother describes the anguish of contemplating her daughter’s reproductive rights. In another, a parent tells how therapeutic horse riding has helped her adult son to thrive, despite having been told as a child that he might someday “be able to water plants.”

The essays also illustrate how everyday assumptions about disability can become barriers to allowing people to fully participate in community. Should we hesitate to ask someone with a disability to volunteer at the church? No, one writer tells us: “This morning made me happy. I am in the circle at church, and they asked me to bring a salad or cake for the salad luncheon.” Another writer, a human services professional, reflects, “It’s amazing how we start to think that we know what people need and what people are going through. What a misconception.”

The Spectrum Network Executive Director Toni Smith says that From My Perspective is one of the most inspiring projects of her seven years with the organization. “To read these stories, you gain a new appreciation for the tenacity of individuals who are leading joyful, productive lives, having once been told they would not. These stories tell us why to try.”